This year, all seven households in my brother's carefully planned neighborhood contributed their never-used exercise devices, too big/too small garments, outgrown baby cribs and bicycles, museum-quality VCRs, board games-with-MOST-of-the-pieces, books on every subject imaginable, and what-have-you items to the sale. And it was all part of a community-wide event that boasts about 90 such events over a two-day time frame. Traffic everywhere was a complete bitch, but you would be amazed (or maybe you wouldn't) by how many people turned out for this semi-annual event and the kinds of crap they bought.
My brother usually nets a few hundred dollars ... vacation money ... but he and I always tell stories about "the good old days" and how today's garage sales are just so thrown together with little planning ... and very little heart.
As a kid, I always took part in our family yard sales. But everyone in the family had jobs. We boxed, we sorted, we wiped down card tables, we set up display areas for different types of items (books, clothes, toys, CDs, etc.), we checked items for pieces and parts, and we tagged things to identify who received the money when all was said and done.
And we always had a gimmick. We children always sold lemonade and cookies or brownies to the hungry shoppers. On "hot" years we made a killing. One year a neighbor even loaned us his two party-sized ice cream makers (why he had two commercial grade appliances like that I'm not sure about) and we sold cones with different kinds of sprinkles.
Many members of my extended family are "crafty," so we cashed in on that over the years. One year we spent weeks gluing eyes, spare doll accessories, and felt "belongings" to stones we picked up everywhere and sold "Pet Rocks" that were nurses, soldiers, teachers, cheerleaders, baseball players, zoo animals, space aliens, and business professionals. People thought it was so funny and odd that we sold out in a couple of hours and I think we had like 70 of the little devils.
Another time, an aunt showed us how to create these small braided rugs from plastic bread wrappers. We ate sandwiches like crazy people for a few months and asked everyone we knew to save their wrappers. I think us four kids made about 15 rugs but we sold them for $15 a piece and we only had one left at the end of the sale.
I remember one year my grandmother surprised us with the fact that she had made 30 crocheted dishsoap bottle covers that were supposed to look like fashionable ladies or princesses or something. They were frightening, with tiny hands that I knew had the skills to kill me eight different ways. And she had attached these small, cruel eyes that caught the light in a strange manner as they followed you wherever yo went. My grandmother came by about four times during that Saturday yard sale to see how her "little beauties" were selling, an each time my Mom saw her car pulling up she hid a few of them. Our family ended up "buying" half of them with our profits. My Mom actually tried using them a few times, but they were so ugly that my siblings and I kept hiding them in the trash can outside until she made peace with having a naked bottle of liquid dishwashing detergent.
Probably one of our more profitable efforts was the last October sale where my mother still had her health. For months we had been collecting acorns, leaves, pussy willows, cattails, buckeyes, small twigs, and burrs of different sorts. My father used a saw and cut about 100 wooden circles ... maybe six or seven inches in diameter ... a pounded a large nail up through the center of each. My oldest brother was in charge of spray painting each circle with gold paint. Once dried, my father drew a smaller circle on each piece and then my sister and I would help my mother glue on the assorted flora in interesting and overlapping shapes. We then took each back to my brother for more paint and a quick spray of sealant. Then my brother got the honor of helping Mom affix a large crimson candle to each botanical candle holder. They sold out at $5 each and I think my Mom used the money to buy some "crazy things" for the kitchen ... we got our first ever toaster with bagel-sized slots that October. And that Christmas, we were also surprised by a larger set of the candleholders for our mantle ... decorations that we all cherished for many years. Thanks, Mom!
But as exciting and exhausting as the sale itself was on our tired kids' bodies, it was the counting of the loot at the end of the day that made it all worthwhile. It took us hours to tally tags, separate out the money used to start the day as change for customers, and to wrap the coins. We sat around like little exhilarated thieves, tired from the crime but unable to come down from the rush of our most recent bank robbery. It's what "family time" is supposed to feel like.
POINT OF RANT: Garage sales must invoke some type of urban magic ... how else are we able to sell "all" of our junk at a yard sale and then have enough accumulated stuff for another one six months later.